Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management Groundbreaking ideas and research for engaged leaders
Rotman Insights Hub | University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

A Thoughtful Leader offers a fresh perspective on what it means to be a good leader

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Jim Fisher

Are good leaders just born that way? Can leadership really be taught?  What, exactly, does it take to be a good leader? 

Professor Jim Fisher answers these and other questions in his book The Thoughtful Leader, A Model of Integrative Leadership (Rotman-UTP Publishing, 2016). In it, he provides an invigorating, inclusive and positive framework for teaching current and aspiring leaders in all walks of life.

Fisher has mulled over these questions throughout his long career, which has always involved some aspect of studying, practicing or teaching leadership qualities. Fisher first started out as a management consultant, eventually moved into executive roles, and later went on to serve as a professor and vice-dean at the Rotman School.

Fisher’s main motives for writing the book are simple, but important. As he describes in the book, he’s seen, first-hand, the fallout from when ambitious people take on powerful positions, only to disappoint themselves (and their followers) when they do. Perhaps more importantly, Fisher, who is now a professor emeritus at Rotman, believes that more people might pursue leadership opportunities if they have the tools to do it well — and he hopes that they do.

In The Thoughtful Leader, Fisher starts by introducing an integrated model for leadership that incorporates various, and somewhat opposing, leadership ideas. As he explains in the book, in order to successfully meet the challenges of a fast-changing world, leaders can no longer choose between managing, directing or engaging; they must do all three.

In subsequent chapters he gets into the details and illustrates his key points by drawing on his professional experiences and those from leaders of major companies. He gets at where planning, organization, project control, vision, alignment, motivation, values, clarity and involvement fit into the integrative leadership model.

Fisher developed his framework at the Rotman School as a professor teaching leadership as a course in the MBA program and in skills development programs in a wide range of executive programs. He was able to test the most popular theories against his own experience as a strategy consultant and business executive as well as the issues and challenges faced by his students. With time and experience, he is now convinced that leadership is more about what you do than what skills and attributes you might have — he's excited to share these ideas now.

Readers will finish the book feeling inspired, confident, and more reflective about their approaches.

“Leadership today is difficult, but I remain very optimistic about the state of leadership in the world,” says Fisher. “Those with ambition and courage who are already leading can be better. Those with great ideas can take the leap and make the world a better place.”

The Thoughtful Leader: A Model of Integrative Leadership by Jim Fisher, professor emeritus

Jim Fisher is professor emeritus of the University of Toronto and teaches leadership, strategy and organization design in the MBA, EMBA and executive programs. He worked with McKinsey & Company before becoming a co-founder of The Canada Consulting Group, which eventually merged with The Boston Consulting Group. He came to Rotman in 1998 where he developed the School’s first course on leadership and later served as vice-dean and Marcel Desautels chair in entrepreneurship.